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Australia lose final Worlds match to Italy

15 September 2014

VOLLEYBALL: Australia has had a disappointing finish to its 2014 Volleyball World Championships campaign, beaten by Italy in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon in their second round group.

The 25-23, 25-14, 21-25, 25-18 result means Australia’s first foray into the second round of a World Championship has ended winless.

However the Australians made history at these Championships by winning their way out of the first round for the first time.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to finish a tournament in this way,” captain Aidan Zingel said after the match.

“But there’s still so many positives we can take out of this event. It’s not all a loss, we played some incredibly tough teams, and we’ve had a great year.”

Australia had its chances early, fighting back from a 12-18 deficit to grab a 23-22 lead over the Italians, who came into the match with just the one win in the second round.

But the Australians were unable to capitalise, losing 25-23.

The second set was one of the worst Australia played in Poland, full of unforced errors and an inability to take advantage of a team low on confidence.

By contrast Australia played some of its best volleyball in the third set, as it has done for most of the tournament.

Coach Jon Uriarte kept star player Tom Edgar on the bench, with Paul Carroll taking his role as opposite.

The return to form was short lived however, with the Australians outplayed in the final set 25-18.

“Nobody likes to finish with a defeat, but we had a really important year in the short history of volleyball in Australia,” Uriarte said.

“I think we are leaving world champs with the feeling we have the potential to match up to these teams next year. The picture for us is exciting.”

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Australia outgunned by USA

VOLLEYBALL: Australia has been beaten 3-nil by the United States in a highly charged match at the World Volleyball Championships in Poland.

The Americans came into the match needing to keep a clean sheet to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the next round, and played accordingly.

“It was quite clear we couldn’t cope with the service, with our reception,” coach Jon Uriarte said.

“And when we did play well there, we came up with different kinds of errors. It is quite difficult to come out with a good result.”

Australia was completely outgunned in the opening set after starting brightly, losing 25-15.

Numerous service errors and poor serve reception was making life easy for the United States, who attacked at every opportunity.

The second set also started badly for the Australians, but some big Tom Edgar spikes helped the Volleyroos back into the set, taking the lead at 14-13, and levelling again at 18-18.

But once again USA switched on its power game, blasting the Australians off the court to take the second set 25-19.

Australia has won the third set at its last two outings, against Iran and France, but despite some nervous moments and some timely American umpire challenges, the Australians lost the final set 25-20.

Australia plays its final match of the World Championships against Italy early Monday morning, Australian time, a match captain Aidan Zingel says the Volleyroos will be desperate to win.

“It’s a big game for us, because we don’t want to finish bottom of the pool,” he said.

“So we’ve got to be ready for that.”

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

No repeat of French fairytale

VOLLEYBALL: Australia has failed to repeat its heroics of earlier this year, losing to France in four sets at the Volleyball World Championships in Poland.

There was to be no repeat of Australia’s stunning five-set victory over France in Sydney in July, a win that took Australia to the final of the World League and sent France home.

But the Australians gave the highly-rated French team plenty of headaches, including a stunning third set victory, 32-30.

“The team keeps trying, sometimes with some up and down, but they don’t give up,” coach Jon Uriarte said.

“It is one feature of this team that makes us happy. We are working still to find the best mix, to solve many different situations.”

Uriarte took a gamble early, starting Olympians Tom Edgar, Harry Peacock, Travis Passier and Nathan Roberts on the bench.

It appeared to throw France off their game, with Australia dominating early and taking a 6-3 early advantage.

But as has often been the case, Australia was let down by an inability to hold on to a lead.

Serve receives was once again problematic, and they couldn’t capitalise on several straight forward scoring opportunities.

The second set started badly for Australia, a return to the form which saw them thrashed in the final set of their match against Iran 24 hours earlier.

With the team trailing 8-2, Uriarte brought Edgar and Peacock into the game, and Australia clawed its way back into the set.

But in volleyball a six-point deficit is almost impossible to peg back, and Australia was still struggling in many facets of the game.

As they did 24 hours earlier against Iran, Australia played their best volleyball in the third set, saving several match points before a Tom Edgar ace gave them the set 32-30.

But also as they did 24 hours earlier, Australia was unable to capitalise on the momentum shift, losing the fourth set 25-17.

“We did an exact repeat of last night’s match,” captain Aidan Zingel said.

“I’m not sure exactly why we keep doing this, but it’s something we need to fix before the last two matches of the tournament.”

Australia now has a rest day before taking on USA on Sunday morning, AEST.

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Brave Aussies lose to Iran in four sets

VOLLEYBALL: A spirited Australia has been beaten in four sets by Iran in Poland in their first ever second-round World Championship match.

After losing the first two sets in Bydgoszcz, Australia fought back to take the third set before capitulating in the fourth.

Despite the loss, Australia showed plenty of fight against Iran, one of the form teams of the World Championships so far.

“We produced many opportunities in the first set and the match, but unfortunately we couldn’t turn those into points,” coach Jon Uriarte said after the match.

“And then we couldn’t keep our approach in the fourth set. That is another thing we should think about before tomorrow.”

The Australians have struggled all tournament to deal with powerful serves, and that weakness was once again on display against Iran in sets one and two.

In the opening set Australia scrapped its way to 15-14 lead, but then couldn’t deal with several fiery serves, Iran eventually taking the opener 25-23.

Australia once again enjoyed an early lead in the second set, with strong blocking at the net a feature of their game.

But serve receive errors again proved costly, turning an 11-10 Australia lead to an 11-14 deficit, and an eventual 25-21 set win to Iran.

The third set though saw a return to the form that helped them fight their way to a five set win against Venezuela last weekend.

With Tom Edgar dominating, Australia raced to an 8-4 lead, and then 21-15, before taking the set 25-21.

But as quickly as Australia took control, they threw it away.

The fourth set was one the Australians would rather forget, full of unforced errors and serve receive problems.

At one stage Iran led 18-8, before taking the set 25-17 and the match 3-1.

“In the first three sets we put up a bit of a fight,” captain Aidan Zingel said.

“If we had been more consistent maybe the result might have been a bit different. In the fourth they put extra pressure on their service, and we couldn’t really handle it.

“We crumbled a bit. It’s disappointing to have a loss but we’ve got to keep our heads up because we have another match tomorrow.”

The team's chances of scoring a maiden second round victory don’t get any easier, playing France on Friday morning, Australian time.

Although Australia beat France in five thrilling sets in Sydney to qualify for the final of the World League, France has been the form team of the World Championships.

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Coach confident of more historic wins

VOLLEYBALL: The Australian men’s volleyball team has arrived in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz full of energy and determined to build on their history-making performance at the World Championships.

Australia qualified for the second stage of the Championships by beating Venezuela in a 5-set thriller on Sunday night, the first time the Volleyroos have made it past the first round.

The Volleyroos will start their second round with a match against tournament surprise packets Iran in the early hours of Thursday morning, Australian time.

Australia will also play France, USA and Italy.

Iran lost only one match, against France, in what was considered the toughest first round group of the tournament.

By contrast Australia scraped through with wins against Cameroon and Venezuela, but coach Jon Uriarte believes his team is hitting form at the right time.

“I feel that now the team has a lot of energy,” Uriarte said.

“I’ve got the perception we are in better shape to face the second round of World Championships than we were in Florence for the final six of World League.”

Australia shocked the volleyball world by qualifying for the finals of the World League in Florence earlier this year, but an exhausted team was soundly beaten in each of their matches in Italy.

But Uriarte believes his team stacks up well against all of this week’s opponents.

“We beat France at home, we know very well Iran, we played them recently and every set was very tight,” Uriarte said.

“We did an amazing first set, a great set against the US in Florence, but we couldn’t at that time keep that level of performance.

“And we haven’t met Italy since the Olympics, but we did a very good job then.

“They are all teams that are excellent teams, but I think next year we will be playing A division against these teams. It’s exciting today we already get that opportunity.”

Uriarte said he hadn’t spent much time thinking about his team’s history-making performance on Sunday night, but said he never doubted his players, even when they were 2-1 down.

“Honestly through the years of working in Australia I have learned a lot,” he said.

“And part of that was knowing these players, and having this deep trust in what they can produce. Even after our bad night against Argentina I had this vision for this team that I had formed a long time ago. I had this feeling of trust.

“Even in the toughest moment of the match I was trusting that we could keep going the way we did and do what we did.”

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Volleyroos make history in Poland

VOLLEYBALL: Australia has won through to the second round of the volleyball world championships for the first time in its history after a thrilling 5-set victory over Venezuela in Wroclaw.

The Australians had to fight back from two sets to one down to beat the lowly ranked Venezuelans.

“We knew from a long time ago that this match against Venezuela would be a final for us,” Australian coach Jon Uriarte said.

“Honestly the players did a really good job, because we arrived at this match dealing with many things.

“I am so proud, but not just proud. The players deserve to be recognised for how well they were able to focus and build this win today.”

After the disappointment of 24 hours earlier against Argentina, Uriarte turned to experienced trio Nathan Roberts, Travis Passier and Harry Peacock from the opening set.

It had the desired result, with the Volleyroos racing to a 15-9 lead in the first set, with Passier in particular influential in Australia’s improved performance.

Australia was also being assisted by a poor service game from Venezuela, although when they did get it right the Volleyroos struggled.

The powerful serve of Venezuelan captain Kervin Pinerua was causing plenty of headaches for Australia, but they managed to hold on to take the opening set 25-20.

The second set was even throughout, with the lead changing hands on several occasions. Australia continued to struggle with their serve receive, Venezuela taking the set 25-23.

Pinerua again proved the difference in the third set, the Venezuelan’s serve proving too hot to handle for the Australians and helping his team to a 25-21 win.

Australia finally got its game together in the fourth set, dominating throughout to win 25-16, with Venezuela continue to make unforced errors.

The momentum carried Australia through in the fifth, the Volleyroos opening up a big early lead and winning the final set 15-9.

Uriarte said his team has shown it can deal well with pressure.

“For many years our team has built confidence in keeping focused on our keys, take feedback from the matches, and today that was the key moment,” he said.

“The team has this mental strength that it could come back.”

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Volleyroos throw away early dominance

Australia has let slip a big opportunity to post their second win of the Volleyball World Championships in Poland, throwing away early court dominance to lose 3-1 to Serbia.

The loss leaves Australia still chasing the second win it needs to progress to the next round for the first time in the Volleyroos history, with games against Argentina and Venezuela to come this weekend.

“We hate to lose,” coach Jon Uriarte said.

“The feeling is the team evolved from the last match, but we are still one step behind where we want to be.

“It’s really positive that in just three matches the team is showing evolution, but we are demanding that we want to do better in the next match.”

Uriarte had stressed the importance of the Volleyroos winning the opening set against Serbia after losing 3-0 to Poland two nights earlier.

They started positively, with captain Aidan Zingel and 212cm Tom Edgar blocking several Serbian attacks at the net to set up an Australian lead.

At 21-18 the Volleyroos were in command, but then let the set slip, several unforced errors allowing Serbia to level at 22-all and then close out the set 25-23.

“We fell back into our old habits of playing well, starting the game very strong, and then falling at the finish line,” captain Aidan Zingel said after the match.

“That was a crucial set, that would have determined our rhythm for the rest of the match.”

Australia started positively in the second set, winning the opening two points, but quickly found themselves in trouble.

At 11-17 a desperate Uriarte took Edgar, his main point scorer, from the court and brought in Paul Carroll for his first court time of the World Championships.

The Australians rallied, getting to 16-18 and then 21-23, before Serbia steadied to take the second 22-25.

Edgar remained on the bench for the third set, and the strategy paid immediate dividends for coach Uriarte.

After going point-for-point early, Australia took a small lead, before an Adam White ace stretched the margin to 14-9 and put the Volleyroos in control.

Once again the Australians faltered late, but managed to hold on take the third set 25-22.

Australia found themselves in trouble early in the fourth set, trailing 5-9 and then 11-17 before Uriarte injected Edgar back into the game.

But Serbia were playing with renewed confidence, closing out the set 25-17 and the match 3-1.

Australia now has a win against Cameroon and losses to Poland after three matches.

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Poland spike Australia back down to earth

September 3, 2014

Australia have been comprehensively beaten by home side Poland in their second World Championship match in Wroclaw. 

The vistors were outclassed in most aspects of the game, losing 25-17, 25-19, 25-22 just two days after thrashing Cameroon 3-0 in their opening match. 

“That tonight is the reality of the situation,” coach Jon Uriarte said after the match. 

“That is where Poland is and that is where we are.” 

Australian captain Aidan Zingel said while the Australians played below their best, Poland played almost the perfect match. 

“Poland is an excellent team,” Zingel said. 

“We didn’t perform in a lot of our areas of play. But the match is over, we’ve got Serbia coming up, we have to focus on that. 

“Even when we received well, they still managed to scramble and play well. They did an excellent job tonight.” 

Poland exacted revenge on Australia for their shock loss at the London Olympics two years ago, and delighted the vocal capacity crowd. 

Australia struggled from the opening set, losing the first three serves and never regaining their composure. 

They struggled to deal with the Polish serve, their blocks were ineffective and their attacking moves lacked penetration. 

Australia were much more competitive in the second set, taking the lead momentarily, and with the introduction of Olympic veterans Harry Peacock and Nathan Roberts, clawed their way back to trail the home side 19-20. 

But that’s where the run stopped, Poland winning the final five points of the set to finish 25-19. 

The third set was again close early, but once again they let the set slip late. 

Australia picked up a handful of easy points late in the match to make the score look more respectable, but generally the Australians were outclassed. 

Australia now have a win and a loss in Wroclaw, and will next take on Serbia on Friday morning, Australian time. 

“I think we’ll approach that match a lot better,” Zingel said. 

“It’s good to get tonight’s match out of the way. That was the highest pressure match for us in this pool phase, so I think we’ll be a lot more comfortable in our final three matches of the first round.”

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia

Australia gets world championship revenge

1 September 2014

VOLLEYBALL: Four years after suffering one of the most humiliating defeats in their history, the Australian men’s volleyball team has exacted revenge. 

Australia put Cameroon to the sword in straight sets, bettering the 3-1 loss the Volleyroos suffered against the African nation at the 2010 World Championships. 

“One small slip up at the last World Championships ruined the whole tournament for us,” captain Aidan Zingel reflected after the win. 

“It’s an excellent way to start a tournament, and especially against Cameroon. It’s revenge for four years ago when they kind of foiled our plans.” 

The 2014 Australian model is much slicker than the 2010 version, and that’s impressive when you consider the older version were by no means slouches. 

This year’s list of achievements underlines how far the Australians have come; first ever set win in the World League, first ever match win in the World League, qualification for the World League finals. 

The thoroughness of Sunday’s 25-22, 25-15, 25-18 victory was just another step. 

“It’s a really good atmosphere amongst the team, everyone’s pushing each other, everyone’s working together,” Zingel said. 

“I think that’s going to make this a really enjoyable tournament.” 

The Australians outplayed Cameroon, a team sprinkled with several players who ply their trade in Europe’s best leagues, in almost every aspect of the game. 

But mostly it was the pressure they applied, forcing the Africans to make two dozen unforced errors. 

“Honestly, even in my worst dreams, I could not imagine seeing my team play as badly as they played today,” Cameroon coach Peter Nonnenbroich said. 

“We didn’t play, it’s a shame, I’m sorry for what happened. We did so many unforced errors, we had no chance. There was something in the mind.” 

Such was Australia’s dominance that coach Jon Uriarte was able to keep Olympians Nathan Roberts, Travis Passier and Harry Peacock sitting on the bench for the entire night. 

All three have been battling injuries in the lead-up to Poland, and now have an extra couple of days to work on their fitness. 

“We need to handle all three,” Uriarte said. 

“Opening matches are always very special, and very difficult. It was a good job today because we could stick with the plan, and the tension slowly lifted and we were able to finish the job.” 

For much of this year Western Australian Luke Smith has been a fringe player for the Australian team, pinching occasional minutes on court but rarely anything more. 

On Sunday Uriarte gave Smith, who celebrated his 24th birthday the day before, his chance. 

Not only did he name him in his starting line-up, but he also gave him the task of serving first. 

It paid off, with Smith winning the first three points of the match. 

“The whole year I’ve been preparing to get back into the team, to prove my worth,” Smith said. 

“It’s been a hard, long journey. I feel like I’ve been playing good, consistent volleyball for the last month on tour, which led to me getting my opportunity.” 

Australia’s next challenge is much tougher. 

They’ll take on host nation Poland on Tuesday night. Poland is the side Australia shocked at the London Olympics. 

In many ways, Australia is to Poland what Cameroon was to Australia.

It’s all the Polish media have talked about for months. Zingel and Uriarte have lost count how many questions they’ve been asked about this match. 

After Sunday’s win over Cameroon, Zingel and Uriarte received just one question each at the post-match news conference; How did they think Australia will go against Poland on Tuesday? 

60,000 people turned out to watch Poland beat Serbia in Saturday night’s World Championship opener. While revenge is a dish best served cold, the Australians have no intention of turning down the heat. 

Ross Solly for Volleyball Australia 

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